When my fridge auto detects I'm running low on milk and quietly orders it via my online groceries account, or my smart meter tracks my household energy bills with stealth accuracy, that's useful right?
Even better is the little sensor (a beautiful, sleek device) on my dining room table that measures motion, sound and acceleration, and alerts me when anything occurs outside normal parameters. Not to mention, the small electronic label (Tile- see video at the end of this blog) that I plan to stick on my pair of Ray-Bans and phone so I can locate those objects in a snap!
I may just draw the line at 'smart socks' which uses a sensor to track distance travelled. Overkill yes?
Only five years ago, the number of things connected to the internet outweighed the global population
The tech powering this? It's "connected machines" at play here. And my headline stat reflects the sheer scale of this field of technology (source: Cisco).
Also termed M2M (machine-to-machine), this area has the capacity to change our world over the coming decades.
What is it exactly? Stripped down to the clearest explanation - machine-to-machine is a type of technology that allows networked devices to swap info and interact without our intervention. It's based on Wi-Fi, sensors, RFID or specialised computing software.
You've possibly heard the phrase 'The Internet of Things' (IoT). Some use this interchangeably with M2M, but there is a significant difference - IoT spans a much broader remit. Analyst Matt Hatton has a great explanation for this - think of M2M as "the plumbing of the Internet of Things, providing it with the connectivity that enables capabilities, which would not be possible without it".
M2M may not be a colloquial term or oft-cited concept if you're not in the tech arena, so here are 6 nuggets of info about this field:
- When you consider that everything from fridges to phones to cars will form part of this interconnected network, you begin to see how vast it could be. By 2022, the number of automotive M2M connections are predicted to surge to 1.8 bn. Cisco has - conservatively - estimated that the 10 billion things connected in 2013 could increase to 50 billion by 2020. More here.
- One of the most exciting examples of M2M is the connected car. It's estimated that around half of new cars rolled out by 2015 will be wirelessly enabled, bringing WiFi ubiquity one step closer. Cars could 'speak' to one another to co-ordinate braking and acceleration and sync up with traffic lights. Take a look at this video, where I interviewed some big car companies to get their take on the Connected Car.
- Think connectivity is limited to cars? Nope. M2M will soon invade every aspect of domestic life as well as industry. In fact, we've already seen futuristic items such as robot cleaners, smart thermostats, smart fridges and even connected locks. This article showcases eight such gadgets for the high-tech home.
- And it isn't just vehicles and homes that benefit from the M2M treatment. Entire cities are also transformed. Sensors know when bins need emptying, traffic needs speeding up and street lights can be turned off or on. Read about Santander, a coastal town transformed into a digital city here
- Sounds great, but you're probably thinking that cloud security is still a concern, right? The explosion of devices, and lack of standards and cooperation means that concerns have been raised about the cloud's ability to securely cope with the massive influx of devices. Get to grips with this issue here.
- Ultimately, the possibilities with M2M are limitless and will herald a time closer to that of science fiction that we've ever been before. Don't believe me? Let me leave you with five wild and interesting things already in the works.